Word on the street is that Eddie Jordan is planning to stick with his new and improved starting lineup clear through the All Star break, so when the Sixers take the floor against the red hot Indiana Pacers (they just snapped a three-game losing streak last night with a win over the mighty Pistons), Philly should have some favorable matchups from the tip.
This game features one of my favorite matchups, actually. Andre Iguodala and Danny Granger. If you aren't familiar with Granger, he's probably the guy all the Iguodala haters out there would rather have than AI9. Essentially, he's a three who scores a lot. He's also a three who uses almost 30% of his team's possessions to get his 20+ ppg, rarely finds a teammate with an assist, doesn't defend and has a ton of trouble staying on the floor, but boy can he shoot it.
Granger and Iguodala are the same age (26), they both signed big contract extensions. They're both efficient wing scorers, with a slight edge going to Granger in TS% (.569 for his career, Iguodala is at .561). Essentially, Granger takes about five more shots per game to score five more points. They're both good rebounders. They both broke into the league on borderline playoff teams and then were handed the keys as "the guy" when the old regime was shipped out.
That's where the similarities end. While Granger has made an All Star game, he has failed to bring the Pacers back to the playoffs, something Iguodala has done twice. Iguodala is a premier playmaker at the position, Granger has an assist-to-turnover ratio of .99 for his career. Iguodala has missed a grand total of six games to injury in his six NBA seasons. Granger has missed over 30 in the past 1.5 seasons alone. Granger's defense could best be described as below average. Iguodala is one of the best wing defenders in the game. This season, Granger's only strength is Iguodala's Achilles heel, three-point shooting. He's seen his field goal percentage plummet to 40%, but his advanced scoring and shooting numbers are buoyed by the ungodly number of threes he's taking (8.6/game) which he's shooting at a touch over league average. The impressive thing about Granger's offensive numbers this season is that he's still getting to the line at a nice clip (6.7 FTA/36 minutes) and he's always been a killer on free throws.
I'm sure you already knew which side of the fence I was going to fall on in this discussion, but to be fair, I do think Granger is a very good player. He's just not nearly as good as Iguodala. The fact of the matter is, they'd be a perfect fit if they played on the same team. Iguodala could guard the better wing scorer for the other team. Granger could stretch the defense and carry the scoring load. They'd bring great size to the two and three positions, Iguodala would be freed up to do what he does best and the same goes for Granger. In fact, I wish there was some way to make this happen. Anyway, this is one of those matchups I always look forward to because I believe this is an evaluation most people simply get wrong.
Indiana has been starting the following five, here's how I see our new starters faring against them:
Jrue vs. Earl Watson - Jrue shouldn't have a problem containing Watson, no else in the league seems to. Watson is a solid defender, though. In fact, Indiana is a better defensive team than I thought they would be. This is probably a draw, but I do believe Jrue is a better playmaker than Watson.
Iverson vs. Brandon Rush - Brandon reminds me a whole lot of Kareem Rush, and that's not a good thing. The deciding factor here will be how well Iverson holds up in the ass end of the b-to-b. Probably advantage Iverson no matter what, though.
Iguodala vs. Granger - Best matchup of the night, I expect Granger to score more points, but Iguodala to affect the game in a much bigger way overall. Advantage Sixers.
Brand vs. Troy Murphy - This is going to depend on whether the Sixers get Brand the ball enough to offset Murphy's excellent three-point shooting. He can hit the bomb, and he's definitely not shy about jacking them up (4.6/game). I'm saying advantage Pacers, mainly because I don't think Eddie Jordan cares if Brand only gets 9 shots/game in his 25 minutes of work, and that's not going to be enough to offset Murphy's damage.
The benches are a crap shoot. Thad and Speights can score with anyone, Lou should cause headaches for any guard on the Pacer roster, but with Jrue and EB in the starting lineup the Sixers have zero defense on their bench (especially if Carney has slipped below Kapono in the pecking order. Indy gets offense out of Mike Dunleavy off the bench (sort of), but they definitely have some defenders they sub in. Dhantay Jones and Jeff Foster are the first two who come to mind. Foster's minutes are being taken by their first-round pick, Tyler Hansbrough (who is nearly 5 years older than Jrue, and was taken four spots ahead of him in the draft.) If the second unit can keep up their defensive work from last night, this is a big advantage for Philly, but I'm not exactly confident in that.
Jim O'Brien is clearly the better of the two coaches.
Key to the Game: Keeping Hibbert and Hansbrough off the offensive glass.
If ______ the Sixers will win: The crazy rotations and lackluster effort put forth by the Sixers don't turn a 32% team from three into a 40% team from three.
This is your game thread, I'll be here throughout, but paying extra special attention at the beginning of the first and third quarters when a real lineup will supposedly be on the floor for the Sixers. Join me if you dare.